PAIR PLEADS GUILTY TO STEALING PATIENT INFORMATION TO BE USED FOR PERSONAL GAIN
SHERRIE BLAIR, age 26, and CLYDE WASHINGTON, age 50, both residents of Westwego, Louisiana, pled guilty in federal court today before U. S. District Court Judge Eldon E. Fallon, announced U. S. Attorney Jim Letten. BLAIR was charged with mail fraud and identity theft, and WASHINGTON was charged with the wrongful disclosure of protected patient information.
According to court documents, WASHINGTON, was employed at Ochsner Medical Center as a janitor, from November 2008 until June 3, 2009. In his capacity as janitor, he stole printouts containing confidential patient information such as names, social security numbers, dates of birth, phone numbers, home addresses and other personal information that was intended to be shredded. The hospital is a covered entity under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA protects the individual identifiable health information collected from an individual by a health care provider.
On March 3, 2009, WASHINGTON brought the stolen patient information sheets to the residence of his girlfriend, BLAIR., who then created online accounts with companies in the names of the hospital patients contained on the information sheets. Once BLAIR opened the accounts using the internet, she was then able to order merchandise that would be shipped to her residence for her use and for others. Specifically, BLAIR used these accounts to obtain items such as DVD’s, CD’s, loans, an $800 ring, a 42 inch Samsung Plasma television, and gift cards, all in the names of the hospital patients.
BLAIR faces a maximum term of imprisonment of twenty (20) years on the mail fraud count, a maximum term of imprisonment of five (5) years on the identity theft count, as well as a fine of $250,000.00 and three (3) years of supervised release following any term of imprisonment, as to each count. CLYDE WASHINGTON faces a maximum term of imprisonment of ten (10) years on the wrongful disclosure of individually identifiable health information count, as well as a fine of $250,000 and three (3) years of supervised release following any term of imprisonment. Sentencing is set for April 12, 2012 at 2:00pm.
The case was investigated by the Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Special Agents of the United States Secret Service. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Jon Maestri and Jordan Ginsberg.
If you believe you have been a victim of fraud from a person or an organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of storm victims or have knowledge of waste, abuse, or allegations of mismanagement involving disaster relief operations, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud toll free at: (866) 720-5721. You can also fax information to: (225) 334-4707 or e-mail it to: firstname.lastname@example.org